Medical marijuana could be a safe and effective treatment for the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia, according to a new study.

The Israeli researchers suggest in their findings that marijuana use for fibromyalgia patients may decrease pain intensity, improve sleep, and alleviate symptoms of depression, whilst being a safer treatment than opioids.

“Our data indicates that medical cannabis could be a promising therapeutic option for the treatment of fibromyalgia, especially for those who failed on standard pharmacological therapies,” the study notes in its conclusion.

For the study, the researchers asked fibromygalia patients to complete a questionnaire prior to starting treatment with marijuana. They were then asked to fill in a follow-up questionnaire six months later which asked what changes, if any, had occurred with their symptoms.

Prior to marijuana treatment, 52 percent of respondents indicated a high level of pain. This dropped to only 8 percent after six months of using marijuana.

Of those respondents who reported depression symptoms at the start of the study, 80 percent said their depression had improved since they began treating their fibromygalia with marijuana.

Similarly, 73 percent of respondents who reported having trouble sleeping at the study’s intake said their sleep had improved after using marijuana.

Of further encouragement, the study’s authors note, is the relative safety of marijuana compared to traditional opioid treatments.

“Considering the low rates of addiction and serious adverse effects (especially compared to opioids), cannabis therapy should be considered to ease the symptom burden among those fibromyalgia patients who are not responding to standard care,” the author’s said.

The results of the study, published in June in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, are based on the responses of 211 fibromyalgia patients in Israel between 2015-2017. The respondents were 80 percent female and largely between the ages of 40 and 60, as the condition mostly affects women but can occur in men and children as well.

The new findings support previous research which has also suggested that cannabis could be a safe and effective treatment for fibromygalia. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology found that fibromygalia patients who used marijuana suffered less pain, had more energy, and that some were able to return to work. More than half of the patients in this study were able to reduce their prescription drug use by 50 percent through the use of marijuana.

While doctors are still unsure what causes fibromygalia, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases report that many fibromygalia patients associate their condition to a physically or emotionally stressful or traumatic event.

There is no cure for the chronic pain condition which afflicts an estimated 10 million people in the U.S., and between 3 to 6 percent of the world’s population.